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The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine, built between 1984-1995, is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and the ninth largest in the world. It has six reactors, each generating 950 megawatts with a total output of 5,700 megawatts — enough energy to power roughly 4 million homes.

In normal times, outside of war, it produces one-fifth of Ukraine’s electricity and almost half of the energy generated by the country’s nuclear power facilities.

The plant is located in southeast Ukraine, in Enerhodar, on the banks of the Kakhovka Reservoir on the Dnieper river. It is about 240 miles from the contested Donbas region and 425 miles southeast of Kyiv. The plant has been apparently reinforced with concrete walls and, according to current news reports, even though it has been attacked by Russian forces, it remains unscathed and is still operating.

According to Cindy Folkers, who works with Maryland nonprofit Beyond Nuclear, nuclear power plants are vulnerable to meltdown at any time. Folkers says they are especially vulnerable during wars — such as we are seeing in Ukraine, as evidenced by Russian attacks on the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia facility and on the closed nuclear facility at Chernobyl in March of 2022.

Media articles often dwell on the conditions that could spark a meltdown, but attention, Folkers observes, should also be paid to the possible human health consequences. She answered some questions in an article about the short-term and long-term consequences when it comes to human health if there was a radiological disaster at a nuclear power plant.

The main question she is asked is what would happen if a nuclear power plant were attacked?

“The main dangers would arise at the reactor and at its irradiated fuel pool. Loss of power can result in both of these draining down, as their water contents leaked or boiled away. This would expose highly radioactive fuel rods, resulting in meltdowns and explosions as occurred at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, where large amounts of radioactivity were released into the environment.”

She continues:

“Explosions, as happened at both Chornobyl and Fukushima, eject radioactive nuclides high into the atmosphere, so that they travel long distances downwind via weather patterns, such as winds and rain. The result is radioactive fallout over large areas, as occurred at Chornobyl and Fukushima. A map from the European Environment Agency shows that the dispersion and deposition of caesium-137 (Cs-137) from the Chornobyl catastrophe in Ukraine in 1986 was far-reaching — covering 40% of the land area of Europe, as it followed weather patterns over the 10-day period of the accident.”

These are some alternatives we should use as opposed to nuclear power:

  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy
  • Hydro energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Geothermal energy
  • Biomass energy

We need to also look at ideas from nuclear engineer Arjun Makhijani, president of anti-nuclear organization the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, along with other climate scientists’ extensive work.

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